Title "Mercy Killing"

Author Diena (patientalien on LJ)

Summary After a long captivity, Ahsoka is rescued

Notes You guys, this is terrible. It's disgusting. Please don't go into this thinking it's going to be anything but gut-wrenchingly awful. Based on the movie Se7en. Dark themes, gore, Unhappy Endings. Don't say I didn't warn you.

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By the time they found her, it was already too late. Running down the hall beside Anakin, Obi-Wan took a breath to say, "Be prepared for whatever we find." Anakin's apprentice had been in the clutches of the Separatists for months, and Anakin had been tireless in his search for her. He had forgone other missions, had disobeyed the Council, and had taken off with Torrent Company and the Twilight in his attempts to find Ahsoka. By the time Obi-Wan had caught up with him, there was little doubt that this had been an elaborate plot, a trap designed to waylay the Hero With No Fear.

Their search had brought them to an abandoned warehouse on a factory planet. Pipes and smokestacks belched pollution into the air, coloring the sky a sickly yellow. The planet itself was dead; no native flora or fauna survived, and the only inhabitants were those who were sworn to work in the factories and the small animals that stowed away on cargo ships. Acid rain fell without warning or provocation, falling in stinging rivulets and burning holes in the Jedi's robes. Anakin had ignored the discomfort, closing his eyes. Obi-Wan could feel the Force gathering, reaching out like phantom hands, searching for a familiar presence. After what seemed like a lifetime, Anakin's eyes snapped open, and he pointed to the warehouse. "There," he said, hoarsely. They ran, Obi-Wan and Anakin taking the lead, with Rex and Torrent Company fast on their heels.

The warehouse was not guarded, which was what gave Obi-Wan his first clue that all was not well. He knew they were walking into a trap, but he did not know the purpose beyond making sure Anakin had been distracted and elsewhere as the Separatists took world after world on the Outer Rim. Obi-Wan had no doubt that the trap's purpose was likely much more layered and insidious, and highly personal. He was not sure what to expect as they ran down the hall, but he hoped Anakin realized that Ahsoka's chances were not good.

Anakin stopped short at a recessed door, and held up a hand. "In here," he said, and waved the door open with the Force. The smell hit Obi-Wan like a fist. Thick and rancid, bodily fluids, and rot congealing into an odor that was almost liquid. He held his sleeve over his nose and mouth as he fumbled with his rebreather and motioned for the Clones to turn on the air recyclers in their helmets. Anakin stood in the doorway, blinking. "Snips?" he called out softly, hopefully. Obi-Wan put a hand on his shoulder; that smell did not bode well.

The room was cast in murky shadows, and the air seemed to move. It wasn't until Obi-Wan had gotten past the threshold when he realized the movement was due to insects swarming in and out of the small sliver of light slanting from a crack in the wall. He glanced over at Anakin, seeing the tightening of his friend's jaw, the tightening of his grip on his lightsaber hilt. Before he could say anything, before he could warn Anakin that the chances Ahsoka was alive were nonexistent, Anakin strode to the far corner of the room, as though drawn there by an invisible rope around his waist. Obi-Wan had no choice but to follow.

When Anakin bellowed "She's alive!", Obi-Wan nearly spit out his rebreather in surprise. "A med capsule!" Anakin cried out. "Get a kriffing med capsule!" As the troopers ran out of the room in instant obedience, Obi-Wan joined Anakin.

Obi-Wan Kenobi considered himself to be fairly unflappable. He'd faced terrible situations, had seen suffering in many forms. What he saw when he looked down at Anakin's apprentice made his stomach turn and his head to swim. She was bound hand and foot to a cot soaked through with bodily fluids. Always thin, she was now emaciated, any muscle tone she'd once had wasted away. Obi-Wan could only imagine she'd been bound in this position for the entire time she'd been captive, judging by the the open, weeping bed sores and contorted muscles. Her left montrail was crushed and the lower half of the accompanying head tail had been eaten away by... insects, rodents, Obi-Wan couldn't tell. Puncture wounds on her arms showed where intravenous nutrition had kept her body just nourished enough to survive. Her skin, once healthy orange, was sallow and yellow. Her eyes were sunken, dry and so bloodshot as to be entirely red.

Anakin knelt beside her. "Don't touch her," Obi-Wan warned when Anakin moved to take her gnarled hand.

Anakin shot a glare at him, but bade his warning. "Ahsoka, can you hear me?" he whispered.

Ahsoka groaned and then began grunting incoherently, growing increasingly loud and frantic. She thrashed slightly, and Obi-Wan could see why her sounds were all wordless: they had cut out her tongue. "Calm down, Snips, calm down," Anakin insisted, obviously trying to sound soothing, to sound in control. Obi-Wan could tell, though, that he was losing control quickly.

"Where the KRIFF is that med capsule!" he shouted, springing to his feet and storming towards the door. "She's DYING!" Obi-Wan caught his shoulders and stopped him mid-stride.

"Wait, Anakin," he said softly. "She's obviously been here for a long time. Any change to her environment could very well shock her system to the point of death." He paused slightly as Ahsoka continued to grunt. "She's been deprived of any sensory stimulation. She's not..." He took a deep breath. "I doubt she'll recover, Anakin. Look at her." It was difficult to maintain his calm, to not simply turn and vomit, to not scream at the horror of it.

Anakin trembled in his grip, looking up when Rex and the rest of Torrent Company reappeared in the doorway, medical capsule in tow. He turned back to Obi-Wan, tears threatening to spill down his cheeks, and nodded. "I know," he said softly, and tightened his grip on his lightsaber.

Obi-Wan watched as Anakin returned to Ahsoka's side. "I'm so sorry, Snips." The words were meant for her alone, but Obi-Wan could not help listen. He needed Anakin to know he was not alone in this. "I'm sorry I couldn't save you." Anakin's breath hitched, but he held fast to his compsure. "I was too late again, and I am... I am so, so sorry. I promised I wouldn't fail again, but I did." He swallowed heavily, and raised his lightsaber. Pressing the hilt to Ahsoka's jutting collarbone, he turned to Obi-Wan. "I don't want to do this," he breathed, and activated his weapon. Ahsoka's grunting stopped, her body slackened, and Anakin stood.

"Forgive me," he begged Obi-Wan.

Obi-Wan suddenly realized he had been holding his breath and let it out as slowly and smoothly as the rebreather would allow. "You did the right thing," he assured Anakin softly. "She is with the Force." And likely more comfortable than she had been in many months, he couldn't help adding to himself.

They wrapped her in their cloaks, and Anakin hefted her into his arms, refusing to allow anyone else to touch her. He sat by her body all the way back to Coruscant, refusing to eat or sleep until they returned to the Temple and surrendered her body to the ceremonial pyre.

When it was all over, Anakin was a changed man. It was the same kind of change Obi-Wan had seen after Geonosis, but to a greater extreme. Anakin was hardened, closed off, and insurmountably sadder. Obi-Wan took to going on joint missions with him again, if only to ensure he did not put himself needlessly at risk.

And when Obi-Wan found out the reason for Anakin's betrayal, he knew exactly the day he'd lost Anakin to the Dark Side. It was not the day the Temple burned, or the day the Republic fell; it was the day Anakin Skywalker had lost his apprentice.